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Thursday, January 24, 2008

The council of Carthage and the doctrine of Original sin

Eventhough the Council of Carthage was a local North African Council it became Universal when the decrees were added to the 6th ecumenical Council. One of the Canons of that council affirmed the Council of Carthage, and the Council of Carthage Affirmed not only the Canon of Scripture but also the Doctrine of Original sin.

It must be made known that Eastern Christianity differs from Western Christianity when it comes to the "Understanding" of what Original sin means. It also must be known that both the Augustinians as well as the Semi-Pelagians were at that council to combat the Pelagians. And as we know, the Augustinians and the Semi-pelagians had a different understanding about the condition of man.

Some Eastern Orthodox scholars have called the eastern christian understanding "ancestral sin". The reason why I mentioned this is because John Cassian came from the East to the West, and he as well as his followers were both at the council. So His understanding about the doctrine of Original sin would have been an Eastern One.

The Basic difference between the two views depends on how one reads Romans chapter 5:12

The Rev. Antony Hughes shows the difference when he said:

"The piety and devotion of Augustine is largely unquestioned by Orthodox
theologians, but his conclusions on the Atonement are (Romanides, 2002).
Augustine, by his own admission, did not properly learn to read Greek and this
was a liability for him. He seems to have relied mostly on Latin translations of
Greek texts (Augustine, 1956a, p. 9). His misinterpretation of a key scriptural
reference, Romans 5:12, is a case in point (Meyendorff, 1979). In Latin the
Greek idiom eph ho which means because of was translated as in whom. Saying that
all have sinned in Adam is quite different than saying that all sinned because
of him. Augustine believed and taught that all humanity has sinned in Adam
(Meyendorff, 1979, p. 144). The result is that guilt replaces death as the
ancestral inheritance (Augustine, 1956b) Therefore the term original sin conveys
the belief that Adam and Eve’s sin is the first and universal transgression in
which all humanity participates"

HE also writes:

"Ancestral sin has a specific meaning. The Greek word for sin in this case,
amartema, refers to an individual act indicating that the Eastern Fathers
assigned full responsibility for the sin in the Garden to Adam and Eve alone.
The word amartia, the more familiar term for sin which literally means “missing
the mark”, is used to refer to the condition common to all humanity (Romanides,
2002). The Eastern Church, unlike its Western counterpart, never speaks of guilt
being passed from Adam and Eve to their progeny, as did Augustine. Instead, it
is posited that each person bears the guilt of his or her own sin. The question
becomes, “What then is the inheritance of humanity from Adam and Eve if it is
not guilt?” The Orthodox Fathers answer as one: death. (I Corinthians 15:21)
“Man is born with the parasitic power of death within him,” writes Fr.
Romanides (2002, p. 161). Our nature, teaches Cyril of Alexandria, became
“diseased…through the sin of one” (Migne, 1857-1866a). It is not guilt that is
passed on, for the Orthodox fathers; it is a condition, a disease."

This is the basic difference between East and west in regards to the doctrine of Original sin.

We believe mankind inherited death, as well as the tendency/propensity to sin from Adam and Eve.

We do not believe we inherited their guilt. And it is because of this that alot of Orthodox don't like to use the term "original sin".

I kind of think we have to because of the Council of Carthage. We are linked to that Council through the decrees of the 6th ecumenical council. So it would be best to just say our interpretation of the term "original sin" is different from the western interpretation.

Our interpreation is one of "Ancestral sin"



Anonymous said...

So His understanding about the doctrine of Original sin would of been an Eastern One.

<- correct me if I'm wrong, but there's a grammatical error in this sentence, it should read read "So His understanding about the doctrine of Original sin would have been an eastern one." (not 'would of', but 'would have')

God Bless

Jnorm said...

Thanks! I'll fix it right away.


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